Drazen Petrovic – The Miracle from Sibenik
An artist at work. That is how one would describe the talents of Drazen Petrovic on the basketball court. The Croat played four seasons in the NBA before his rise to global stardom was cut short by a terrible car accident in Munich, Germany.
He was a hero in his home country of Yugoslavia as he led them to countless honours internationally. He joined the national team when he was 15 and later captained it to a gold medal in the 1990 world championships in Argentina. Ethnic and economic tensions
divided his country into different republics and split his team to pieces following that victory.
Drazen rose to stardom and got national attention after he scored 112 points during a Yugoslavian league game.
Called ‘the miracle from Sibenik’, Petrovic was one of the first European players to enter the NBA. He and his fellow Serbian Vlade Divac entered the league together in 1986. Vlade was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers while Petrovic was picked up by the
Portland Trail Blazers.
Drazen was allowed limited time on the court during his first two seasons with the Blazers because of an apparent saturation of players at the guard position. But he finally found his rythym and the spotlight once he moved to the New Jersey Nets for the
start of the 1991-92 season.
Drazen finally hit his mark for the Nets in the 1992-93 season where he averaged 22.3 points per game with a 51.8 percent shooting average. He was widely recognized as one of the budding superstars of the league and still holds the honour of having the third
best 3-point shooting percentage in the history of the NBA, at an impressive 43.7 percent.
Following his death, Drazen’s number 3 jersey was retired in tribute by the New Jersey Nets; it now hangs from the rafters at the Prudential Center in New Jersey
NBA Commissioner David Stern could not have been more appreciative of the Croatian and his efforts when he said, ‘’Drazen Petrovic was an extraordinary young man and a true pioneer in the global sports of basketball. His contributions to the sport of basketball
were enormous. We are all proud of the fact that we knew him’’
Drazen was labeled the next big thing by the American media during his brief stint in the NBA. He didn’t shy away from hitting the big shots and never hesitated on an open look. For him basketball was not a mere game, but rather life itself.
While he rarely smiled, his steely demeanor housed an intense desire to succeed in life. And he was always happy while playing the game he loved. He would spend countless hours in the gym, shooting alone in his hometown of Sibenik. He would wake up at six
in the morning to practice his shooting form every day.
This dedication to the game ensured that he would be remembered by his peers and team-mates alike after his departure.
Michael Jordan had these golden words to offer about the Croat, “It was a thrill to play against Drazen. Every time we competed, he competed with an aggressive attitude. He wasn't nervous; he came at me as hard as I came at him. So, we've had some great
battles in the past and unfortunately, they were short battles.’’
Following his accomplishments, he was eventually inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Petrovic was also accepted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007. He will be remembered in the international basketball arena as an exceptional
player and missed dearly.